A North Carolina nonprofit that raises money for young athletes and fans has sparked a backlash after it offered a shotgun as a prize in a fundraising raffle.
A raffle held by the East Henderson Youth Football and Cheerleading League (EHYFCL) in East Flat Rock, North Carolina, was met with criticism from some locals for offering the winner FN 15 Patrol Carbine, according to local ABC affiliate WLOS.
“We do not provide an assault rifle. We provide the FN 15 Patrol Carbine,” an EHYFCL spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “This is an ArmaLite Model 15 rifle, not a fully automatic, which by definition excludes it from its classification as an assault rifle. We follow all ATF guidelines. Item is held in FFL, recipient must complete ATF Form 4473 and pass NICS background check prior to acquisition” .
Some critics objected to the award selection, believing it to be unsuitable for a children’s league. East Henderson football players range in age from 5 to 13, and cheerleaders range in age from 4 to 13, according to the organization.
“I was frankly shocked when I got the message that kids were going to be selling an assault rifle because of what’s happening in schools across the country,” one anxious, anonymous parent told WLOS. Another local father, who asked not to be identified, said, “I thought it was too bad for them to choose a weapon to be used against children.”
The group also received criticism from users on Facebook, who said the pull was everything from “sad” and “bad” to “disgusting” and “unfortunate”.
EHYFCL leaders also responded to the criticism in a Facebook post on Thursday, writing “in response to complaints made publicly and ‘anonymously’ regarding the recall.”
The group made it clear that they are currently submitting formal fundraising requests, writing: “If you have a proven way to raise money fast enough to get it done through the rest of the season and still have enough to start next season, we need you to use that energy in a positive way.”
After clarifying that their organization is not affiliated with the school district or district, the group said, “The governors are not volunteers, [law enforcement officers] And first responders for child safety are not volunteers.”
And the group continued: “The use of the stadium, playgrounds and facilities is not free, lost uniforms, mouthpieces, chin straps, ear cushions, braces and socks are not free.” “Equipment is not free, insurance is not free, and all the other fees the league has to pay are not fancy.”
“If we don’t raise enough money, we are forced to raise fees,” the organization leaders added.
EHYFCL told WLOS that it is “currently raising funds to purchase new equipment and has the capacity to care for children in our community who cannot afford the registration fee.”
The lottery winner must be at least 21 years old and pass a background check, a league spokesperson explained, adding that “the AR raffle has been done for three consecutive years and has the most support we’ve ever had.”
The controversial draw in Henderson County, North Carolina, comes months after the AR-15 lottery was suspended in favor of high school wrestlers at Chase High School in neighboring Rutherford County amid fears of an uptick in gun violence nationwide.